Monday, March 24, 2014

Before and Afters

Today we celebrate Shannon's 16th birthday. The day will not exactly look like the one I had planned in my head. For a while I tried to think of what to do to celebrate this day. Sweet Sixteen should be remembered. Her cousins up in New York had parties, but that wasn't Shannon. She told me that she had friends that got cars for their birthday. That wasn't happening. And then something triggered an idea. It could have been the TV that always gets left on ESPN in the morning as the boys get all their sport updates while they eat breakfast or it could have been something in my newsfeed on Facebook about Yankee spring training, but the idea to have Chris take her to Tampa for the weekend to watch a couple of Yankee games came to me. I searched for her birthday weekend, she had no soccer tournaments, regular soccer season didn't start until the following week, and there were Yankee games being played in Tampa. Warm Tampa! Sunny Tampa! Snow-free Tampa! It was the perfect surprise. The thing is, she hadn't been feeling well for a while. She had on-again off-again fevers for weeks. I had brought her to the doctor numerous times and she was tested for mono, flu, and strep numerous times and they all came back negative. So it was concluded that she just had a nasty bug that had a hard time letting go of her. 

Tampa sunshine was just what this girl needed! Sunshine! Warmth! We have had such a cold, snowy, icy winter and even though Shannon loves the snow and a good snow day, it was taking it's toll on her. Shannon is a huge Yankees fan and an even bigger Derek Jeter fan. He announced that he will be retiring this year. It will be her last chance to see him play. It was the perfect birthday gift…Yankees, Florida sunshine, and a free weekend. So we planned it all.

By the end of February, we thought she was on the road to recovery. After being home for eleven days, she returned to school and to soccer try-outs. It wasn't the best scenario, but she got through her school days, worked with all her teachers to come up with a schedule to get caught up, and then went to soccer try-outs. It wasn't easy, but she did it and it paid off. She made the team, she was starting to feel better, things were looking good.

But everything started to unravel again. She was feeling sick, again. She had fevers, again. But this time she was congested. We went back to the doctors again and with a negative mono test and flu test and strep test, she was given an antibiotic for a sinus infection. It turns out, this was not the answer. She started to feel a bit better for the first couple of days. She went to Virginia Beach with her travel soccer team for a tournament, but Chris would text me that we would probably be heading back to the doctor's on Monday…and we did.

Monday, we ended up in the ER, Tuesday we ended up in the ER, Wednesday we ended up in the ER…and was admitted and we finally got a positive mono test. 

Two things that I have learned from all this is positive always means positive but negative doesn't always means negative. Negative mono test results still mean you can have mono and if given an antibiotic when you have mono, then this happens.

Mono doesn't like antibiotics and it reacts with this terrible rash all over your body. Shannon was miserable to say the least.

So instead of pulling Shannon out of school early on Friday so she could fly to Tampa for her birthday weekend, we were deciding with the doctor if she should be discharged from the hospital or give her one more day. 

Shannon is, I think, finally on the mend. The rash is starting to subside. Her throat isn't quite so swollen and she is finally eating and drinking again.

As I write this, she is upstairs in her bed on her birthday. She will remember her 16th birthday, but not the way I had planned for her to remember it. As a mom, we hate to see our kids sick. I am blessed that I have four pretty health kids for the most part. None of them have allergies, whether it be food or medicine or even outdoor allergies. None of them have ongoing conditions that have to be monitored. I am a blessed mom. But in the past week, watching my kid suffer, to struggle to breathe, to be in pain and to finally know it was one of these childhood illnesses that seems to hit teenagers the most, I thought back to my own grandmother and her generation. When my mom was a kid, she had all the childhood illnesses, measles, mumps, chicken pox, and I'm sure a few more. My grandmother had four kids, two girls and two boys, just like me and I can't imagine having to go through all those illnesses four times and watching your kids suffer. When someone you love gets sick, everything stops. I was in the middle of a declutter challenge of 40 bags in 40 days for lent. I started off pretty strong, I was focused and determined to get things in order, but my house is worse now than it was before because it doesn't take a priority when a loved one takes ill. 

At 4:54 in the afternoon, 16 years ago, a little girl came into this world and changed my life. There are monumental moments in a person's life that you can think of as befores and afters. You know, your life before that moment and life after that moment. Sometimes they are sad, like your life before a loved one dies and your life after. Sometimes they are collective before and afters, like 9/11. But sometimes they are good…like your life before and after graduating from college or before and after getting your first real job. And sometimes they are more than good, they are great, they are splendiferous, like before and after you meet the love of your life, before and after you marry that person, or before and after a child is born.

Before and after are just two ordinary words, but put them next to one of those monumental moments in your life and they become powerful. It's that moment that your whole way of thinking changes.

For me March 24, 1998, 4:54 pm is one of those splendiferous, monumental moments…life before and life after that moment has never been the same.

Happy 16th Birthday to my strong, kind-hearted, fun-loving, Shannon! We love you to the moon and back and twice again!

March 24, 1998…a monumental moment!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Birthdays, Snow Days, and 398.2

Saturday was Molly's 10th birthday. Every mom asks, "Where does the time go?" It doesn't seem to matter if you are celebrating your baby's first birthday, 10th birthday, sweet sixteen, or your baby just turned 21, you still ask that same question, "Where did the time go?"

I love looking back to when my kids were younger, what mother doesn't? I remember Molly's thick dark hair before it lighten up. I remember trying to keep it out of her eyes and by her first birthday, she didn't just have enough for a cute ponytail with bows, but it was touching her shoulders already.

But, when I'm 87 years old and rocking in my rocking chair, this is what I will see in my mind's eye of my Molly. She was three in these pictures. Hair long and light and full of personality. She still is! As a parent, I agonize over teaching my children well. I want them to be strong, independent, kind, compassionate, and passionate people. I want the world to be a bit better because they are in it. I tell them that they don't have to change the world, but just make their small, little piece of it a better place.

But the thing is, as I agonize over guiding them, teaching them, learning to let them make decisions on their own and when I should intervene, I have learned so many lessons from them. They have all taught me so much. 

Molly is my "go with the flow" kind of kid. She has spent a good part of her 10 years being dragged to Shannon's soccer games and the boys basketball games. But she was never a problem. When she was real little, she would sit in the stroller, good as gold, playing with few toys or eating her Cheerios and Goldfish. Parents would comment on how well behaved she was. When she got a little older, she would pack a bag to entertain herself because she really had no interest in watching a soccer or basketball game. Her bag was like a Mary Poppins bag, filled with books, markers drawing pads, juice boxes, snacks, once she even brought her microscope and binoculars. She also has a love of books and learning and has such a curiosity to learn about the world.

So this weekend we celebrated her "go with the flow" spirit. On Friday, I brought up a couple of slices of Sal's pizza for luck, her favorite. When lunch was over, she wanted me to see her desk. Whenever it's someone's birthday in the class, the teacher sends the birthday student on an errand and when they get back, their desk is all decorated with birthday stickers and a birthday sign. So cute!

Molly loved her owl birthday cake.

 When she was sleeping, I removed all the snowflakes from her room and decorated it with flowers in hopes to get some positive spring mojo going.

It didn't work. 

One of the things that Molly had on her birthday list was books. I went to Barnes and Noble and got a little bit carried away, but she was in her glory. We just finished reading Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library. We had such a fun time reading it. It is filled with references to other books. Some of them are obvious and some are a bit more subtle. 

"Everyone, please pay very close attention." cried Mr. Lemoncello through a squealing megaphone. "The Dewey decimal doors are now open and, unlike Tuck, this game will not be everlasting. Therefore, it is time to race upstairs like the rats of NIMH!"


"Of course." Mr. Lemoncello pointed to the smudge on Charle's shirt. "If you like, I will also have Al Capone do your shirts."
All Charles could do was nod, smile, and wonder when Al Capone had opened a laundry.

Molly was very excited when I read about Tuck Everlasting because we had just read it a couple of months ago and she just got Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh for her birthday.

What Molly will be reading. I had so much fun picking out her books.

Her favorite new necklace. 398.2 is the Dewey decimal call number for fairy tales. Molly and I saw this somewhere online and she thought it was the most clever thing. Of course, I made a mental note and then ordered it.

Her next read is When Audrey Met Alice. Audrey is the First Kid, her mom is the President. Audrey is trying to get used to her new life in the White House. One night, while making tea in the kitchen, she wanders into a closet and finds a loose floor board and under it, is Alice Roosevelt's diary, the oldest daughter of Teddy Roosevelt.

I gave Molly this book to give her some background knowledge of Alice Roosevelt. 

We also went to Teddy Roosevelt's house on Long Island a few years ago but Molly doesn't really remember it. We might have to make another visit again this summer when we visit Grandma.

When I went searching for the pictures, they are dated summer of 2008. Molly was only four, no wonder she really doesn't remember.

That's when she wore a pink dress, every…single…day.